Paul Haggis Appears in Court and Denies Sexual Assault Charges, Says There Was Consent

·3-min read

“Crash” director Paul Haggis and his Italian attorney appeared in court in Brindisi, southern Italy, on Wednesday to answer questions and attempt to prove his innocence in a preliminary hearing probing an unidentified woman’s allegations of sexual assault and aggravated personal injury.

Haggis, 69, made no comment as he entered the court with attorney Michele Laforgia at the courthouse in Brindisi, a port town in the region of Puglia, on the “heel” of the Italian boot.

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They left the courthouse after several hours of questioning by judge Vilma Gilli. They are now awaiting the judge’s decision later today on whether to set Haggis free pending further investigation; or, instead, have him jailed or continue to be held under house arrest in a hotel in the nearby town of Ostuni.

Speaking to Variety, Laforgia said that “Haggis made a long, written deposition and then answered all questions reconstructing day by day – and in some cases hour by hour – what took place during the three days during which he was in the company of this woman in Ostuni,” the attorney said.

“The relations he had with this woman are totally consensual,” Laforgia said. He went on to note that “contrary to what is assumed to be present in the charges [against Haggis] there is no injury and no sign of violence” in the medical report issued by the Brindisi hospital where the alleged victim was taken on Sunday.

The attorney also pointed out that “Mr. Haggis has stated his will to remain in Italy until his total innocence is definitively proven.”

Haggis was arrested in Ostuni on Sunday on charges of sexual assault and aggravated personal injury allegedly inflicted upon a woman who is reported to be British and much younger than him. After being repeatedly forced by Haggis to have non-consensual sex, she was driven by the director to the small Papola Casale airport in Brindisi and left there on Friday morning at the crack of dawn, despite her “precarious physical and psychological conditions,” according to a police statement issued on Sunday.

At the airport, the alleged rape victim, in a “confused state,” according to the statement, was assisted by the airport staff and border police who, after having given her first aid, accompanied her to the offices of the Italian squadra mobile police unit. Police agents then took the woman to the A. Perrino hospital in Brindisi, where Italy’s so-called “pink protocol” for rape victims was put into effect.

Subsequently, the alleged victim filed formal charges against Haggis.

Haggis, who wrote “Million Dollar Baby” and co-wrote and directed “Crash,” both of which he won an Oscar for, was sued in 2018 by publicist Haleigh Breest, who alleged that he had violently raped her after a premiere in 2013. The suit prompted three additional women to come forward with their own sexual misconduct accusations against Haggis, who has vehemently denied the claims. The trial is still pending due to COVID delays.

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